Shri Raj Kishan Bhakt Ex. General Secretary BMS, left this world on 30th March 2004.
The elder son of Shri Ghamandi Ram and Smt Balo Bai was born in 1921 at Kablula village of Mintgumari, Dist, now in Pakisthan. He had four brothers and sister. After partitions, family settled at Jalandhar cantonment, who subsequently shifted to their house,at Pili kothi, where his sons and grandson now are residing.
He joined RSS in this childhood. During days of violence of partition, he exerted to help the victims of partition. once settled in Jalandhar, he engaged in higher studies. But alongside took to teaching job.He had his family to look after. On announcement of formation of BMS at Bhopal on 23rd July 1955, the expansion campaign began. He received BMS flag and literature in 1958. It was hint for him. He followed the lead and took to labour cause and in tandem with sardar Sukh Nandan Singh ji, he began organising labour in Punjab. Those starting year of sixth decade of last century, were tough and was a trying time. There was expansion of Labour unions. But with each now unit, new challenges were thrown at. Every time, he faced odds ,and at each such juncture he came out with win. Some onlookers thought that to be nothing less than miracles.
In year 1969 he became General Secretary of Punjab state BMS. One notch up, he ascended to position of All India secretary in year 1978. Finally to rise to top position in year 1991. He was chosen unanimously to position of All India General Secretary BMS in Vadodara conference in year 1991. He immediately shifted gears. Took nationwide tours and guided millions of workers. He always was moored to the ground and was accessible to anyone and everyone, round the clock. He was lean and thin, of medium height andhis attire was always jacket, Kurta and paijama. His personality was more suited to become President. Thus he arrived at that juncture very soon to be elected to Presidentship in year 1994 during Dhanbad conference. From this time on he camped at central office BMS, that then was situated at Ram Naresh Bhavan, Paharganj, New Delhi. Indian culture defines roles for each individual to follow in span of his life. At the threshold of old ripe age of 70’s, one is supposed to get away from nucleus of worldly life, and stay on periphery.
That he did perfectly by leaving his family behind at Jalandhar,and started serving labour cause through BMS, by making Delhi as his place of residence. He became Vanprasthi. (“One who marched to forest, renouncing world” in literary meaning.)
His continued association at Central office with those who had their residence there and also with those who used to visit Delhi with some union work and make stay at ‘Ram Naresh Bhavan’. He was fatherly figure for one and all.
It was solace to everyone who met him in his room with consoling smile on face. This old man of BMS would offer tea and his favourite Atta Biscuits. He would then engage in personal chat. In no time, tensions would release and agitated minds would settle.There are many alive, within, who experienced these skills and acknowledge. He was follower of Pranami Panth, one sect of devotees who on meeting would fold hands and say “Pranam.”
His soft spoken , fragile frame had great power of fighter. His militant personality of early years of his life, was exemplary for all contemporary trade unionists to follow. He traversed from role of militant field worker to role of fatherly friend, guide and care taker alongwith his advancing age.
But Indian trade union movement can’t forget these instances of past, which were bench marks of BMS progress.
Instance of his dogged fights engaged in, for labour rights on eve of his birth centenary are worth noting. An incident of period between 1960-1964, is worth learning.
It all started in year 1960, when he took charge as state president Punjab BMS. Haryana was not a separate state then. And present day Yamunanagar was very much a part of Punjab. There is a place named Jagadhari. Jagdhari is city and municipal council in yamunanagar and very proximate place adjacent to District place, and about 100 kms from Chandigarh.
There was paper mill JP paper Mill. It was simply referred to as Jagdhari paper mill. BMS had started union in the mill of workers under leadership of Shri Bhkhedu Singh, vice president. Late ma Bhaktji was his inspiration, guide and backup.
During the years of 1963-64, the dispute on wage revision arose. Management using cunning at disposal, tried to break union. The President who had close link with management, was forcing workers to surrender, stop agitation and join duty. The union sought mandate. Since President was supposed to hold power and mandate.Challenging his power needed referendum. Here Bakhedu Singh, vice president stood up to challenge President. Majority workers supported Bakhedu Singh with thumping voice vote. Not only that, they wrote declaration of support and each one signed it in own blood. This was great irritation for those who had set up designs of unholy compramise. In the gate meeting after the shift, there occured great commotion and company security under direction of General Manager, created disturbance. This was perhaps last strew. Violence unleashed. Immediately as though to comply with design, Management requested police protection. Police were more than willing to protect. Next instant police intervened and under pretext of mollifying the violent situation, arrested Bakhedu Sing, Shyam Singh Chouhan and other 63 union workers. They immediately were taken to police station and later to Ambala, to be presented before Magistrate soon thereafter.
The news travelled to Delhi at very hour. Central office BMS was worried. Those days the labour only was accused for industrial disturbance. In Punjab instances around that time witnessed, Police atrocities in custody. So these activists feared to face a heavy dose of police vengeance. All thought that something must be done urgently.
The All India General Secretary Late Shri Thengadi ji directed state president to prevail. Soft spoken exterior with stealth well guarded, Late Raj Krishan Bhakt was to answer and find a way out.
The only way to ensure safety of arrested lot was to keep them together and guide them. But for that, someone would have to join them in police custody. Besides someone had to be powerful enough and should have high valued moral authority.
In entire BMS set up of Punjab there shone only one with that kind of authority. Who else could take on this assignment but Late Bhakt ji? But he was far off, on other side of state. In those day the conveyance was either bus or train. And both were few and far between. But he was determined to reach Ambala. He took night train and travelled in unreserved coach compartment from Jalandhar. In first attempt immediately on alighting train in early morning he went to Ambala police station. But was not allowed to meet the victimised activists.
Then he took to road with BMS flag in hand, this soft spoken thin young man, had full resolve in his steely eyes. In the main square he took to squatting agitation by holding BMS flag high. His slogan against atrocious policies of state and police, enticed crowd. There was traffic jam in main square. Immediately the security forces rushed in. The City Police Officer, wanted him to vacate. On refusal, the only alternate was to arrest and so he was taken to custody. That is what precisely the design he had. Those in custody did not know of all these efforts union was taking to protect them. They were a scared lot since they also had heard of police atrocities.
But before midday they found their cynosure of eye, their mentor, Late Raj Krishna Bhakt enter their cell.
Since there was week end the lot was to be produced before, Magistrate only on Monday. So during those couple of day they were in custody, safe, under protection of their header. No one till that time had gone so far off to protect jailed workers. It was exemplary leadership. The State police immediately learnt about the happening and they too were in admiration of this brave leader. Police heat mellowed.
Nothing could hurt jailed workers then. The union leader alongwith workers arrested too were released on bail later. The criminal case went on for some years. But there offered in intervening years Late Bhaktji an opportunity to mend ways. He was in continuous touch with Union and the Management.
Those who went to jail had a chance to experience the Nobel varies of their leader. They were witness to his sterling commitment to labour cause. Sh Shyam Chouhan was one so impressed by candid commitment of Late Bhakt ji, that he devoted to BMS cause in later years. During emergency he joined INTUC. But even today he is core admirer of late worrier. Workers of Punjab on learning about happenings at Ambala, were highly impressed. So also were those from Management. In the final stages of hearing of criminal case at one juncture management averred that from their side there remained nothing to complain about. Finally the cases were withdrawn. Till the time he was in command, the relations with Management were of high order of cooirdiality. Ability to lead workers in agitation is one dimension of personality.
The other one is to end agitation successfully. On both counts one would be seen as great militant leader. But by no stretch of imagination one could guarantee happy ending of such agitation for labour, when focus is to build up leadership. It is possible that a leader may win and labour may lose . This invokes the important dimention and that is to protect labour interests. The focal point has to be labour interest and not the leadership. In this impugned case, Bhakji not only led a successful agitation but using his skills ans stealth , supported by his sterling character under the banner of selfless service, he took the event to new heights and to successful culmination.
In many cases leaders prosper and labour suffer. Those were small unions led by big leaders, who have demonsteated this around. Late Bhaktji always took pride in being labelled as karykartha. On this anniversary the patriots remember him. The labour of Punjab adore him. He was unique. His memories, has been high octane fuel generating energy for his followers in BMS for ever. He left for the celestial abode on 30th March 2004.He donated his eyes and his mortal remains to medical Institute.
It was his way to repay social debt. This year 2021 we commemorate,his “Birth Centenary year”.
Bharat mata ki jai